Learners' Questions

Intermediate level

Using 'for' and 'to' for reasons why

Episode 191029 / 29 Oct 2019

This week's question

When should I use 'for' or 'to' to express purpose? - Alex from Spain

Answer this

What do we do when we 'express purpose'? 

Language points

Infinitive of purpose
The infinitive of purpose is formed with 'to' + a bare infinitive verb. We add it to the end of a sentence to explain why we are doing something. We can make things more formal by using 'in order to' or 'so as to'.

  • I ran to catch the bus.
  • The dog lay down to sleep. 
  • I ran in order to catch the bus.
  • The dog lay down so as to sleep.

Using a noun
We can use 'for' + a noun to explain why we are doing something too.

  • I ran for the bus.
  • The dog lay down for a nap.

Explaining the purpose of an object
We can use 'for' + a noun or -ing to explain the purpose of an object - either what it does or how it will be used. 

  • I have one pair of shoes for work and one pair for doing sports.

Asking about the purpose of an object
To ask about the purpose of an object - or an action - we use the question 'What...for?'

  • What do you have two pairs of shoes for?
  • What did you do that for? I was sleeping!

The answer

When we express purpose we say why we do, are doing or did something.

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